Since my initial piece on AgResearch’s announcement to move most of it’s staff at the Invermay research centre, along with a similar move from their Ruakura research centre, there has been a string of commentary pieces in the Dunedin newspaper.
My earlier focus was mainly on how this might affect staff and projects at AgResearch and a concern that this proposal was not brought to the public in the first instance given that the shareholders of the CRIs are, in effect, the public (being Crown institutes) and that the initiatives totalled would have a very considerable cost. In addition to the cost of the proposed Lincoln hub (apparently ~$100 million), there are the costs for the Ruakura shift, the lost productivity during the transition, potential loss of collaborations and so on.
Earlier commentary included a former AgResearch scientist and recent recipient of the ONZM is this opinion piece by Doug Edmeades, AgResearch shakeup not positive, AgResearch CEO Tom Richardson offering his side, reportage from the ODT such as an headlined article, Joyce urged to save jobs, and the editor calling for concerns to be expressed and others including Exodus of scientists feared by former scientist Invermay director Conway Powell.
More recently an opinion piece by Gordon Cossens, a former MAF scientist at Invermay and Alexandra (Corporate ways unsuited to research), and an interview of former Invermay director Jock Allison by Sally Rae (Decision on Invermay ‘complete lunacy’) share the thought that the present-day AgResearch has “almost disappeared in the eyes of the farmer”.
Both these men opine that the commercial model does not suit research science and praise the basic science work of MAF and it’s ties to the farming community. The latter sentiments about MAF are ones I’ve often heard from others.
I’m sure that there are arguments various ways on this, but one thought that occurs to me for this particular situation (the lost of MAF services these men refer to) is that it is not a case of either the commercial approach or a farmer-assistance advisory approach, but that commercial approach might be added to extend the primary product chain that is assisted by the latter. (This is well away from my expertise, but the accounts others’ paint imply an either/or situation from political forces or senior figures’ ideas, with the new replacing the old, rather than the new commercial elements being added to the product pathway, as it were.)
On the political front, there has been a regional summit meeting in Dunedin, with a media conference following. They aim to overturn the transfer of 85 jobs from Invermay. I recall that in his early response the Minister for Science indicated that the shift of jobs themselves was not on the table. (Annoyingly I’ve not been able to relocate the source of this.) By contrast, Prime Minister John Key was quoted saying it is not: “who said yesterday he was encouraged by the regional approach and stressed the AgResearch proposal was ”far from a done deal”.”
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